NOVEMBER 24, 2007
I was one of the 9 people who went to see Stir Of Echoes when it came out in theaters in the fall of 1999. I really dug the film, and would get enraged when someone would say it was a Sixth Sense wannabe, since that film came out about 5 weeks before. Yes, David Koepp quickly wrote, directed, edited, and released a film in a month or so to capitalize on the success of a movie that also featured ghosts and otherwise had absolutely nothing to do with his film. Fucking idiots.
Anyway, even though I knew it had zero relation to the original (though it seems the characters live in the same neighborhood) and that none of the cast and crew were returning, I was pretty interested to see the sequel: Stir Of Echoes: The Homecoming (the “2” only appears on the DVD case, for some reason). And while it was no masterpiece, it’s certainly a step above other “in name only” sequels I have checked out recently, like Mangler 2. And it at least retained the goddamn concept, unlike Open Water 2 (which I actually liked, despite the TOTAL LACK OF SHARKS).
For starters, the film is shot scope, which is rare for a DTV movie. It’s not much, but it shows effort (shooting scope is much more difficult than the standard 1.85:1), which puts the film in my “respect” column right from the start. And the acting is good, particularly the Cynthia Nixon-y woman who plays Rob Lowe’s wife. Lowe himself is better suited to smarmy yuppies than battlescarred war vets, but he does OK. The makeup/CG is also better than expected (hell, why didn’t Lionsgate just at least give this a limited release? Christ, they put out fucking Condemned, one of the lousiest, half-assed movies I’ve seen all year).
However, for all its merits, the movie blunders in presenting the mystery angle. For an hour or so, Lowe simply gets scared and sees freaky things. With only 20 minutes to go, he finally finds a clue, which results in him immediately going to some town and then immediately solving the crime behind the visions that have plagued him. One of the things I loved about the original was how the backstory was slowly and carefully dealt out throughout the film (the scene of Bacon frantically going through his records trying to place “Paint It Black” is a gem in itself), but here its almost literally thrown in at the last minute.
That said, the finale is pretty surprising, as we discover the identity of the “bad guy” and also deal with the deaths of several sympathetic, “thought they would be safe” characters. Some horrible music aside (not to mention a much better coda on the deleted scenes than the one used in the actual film), the ending almost completely makes up for a lot of the pacing problems.
Speaking of the deleted scenes, in one of the strangest presentations of them yet on DVD, they are edited together with absolutely no pause or fading to black in between. And since some are simply a deleted shot, it makes for an odd viewing experience (they also fail to put them in context with the finished film). I suggest watching them IMMEDIATELY after watching the film, and perhaps selecting them one by one rather than use the “Play all” option.
Writer/Director Ernie Barbarash also did Cube Zero, which more than made up for the execrable Cube 2 (which he also worked on), so I guess he’s the go-to guy for making “better than expected” DTV sequels to cult horror movies. Hopefully, should they ever get around to greenlighting Dr Giggles 2, they will give him a call.
What say you?